January 2004 Archives

Pic of the day

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Larger version

Inspired by this photo that I saw a few days ago. Taken at the Rockridge BART station with the Casio QV-R51.

Remember this

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You know those plastic things with the spikes on the bottom that you have in your office floor, so your chair is easy to move, and your carpet doesn't get messed up? Try to avoid walking on those while they're upside down. My poor feet! In my defense, the lights were off and I was tired.

Bay Area housing nightmare

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This article describes exactly why I'm 50 miles away from San Francisco, and how hard it is for people even making over six figures to buy a house around here.

Crunch time

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I arrived home today to find three boxes at my doorstep. Two of them had unannounced 8 Megapixel cameras in them, while the other was a compact Minolta camera that I finally get to review.

The first pre-PMA camera announcement is just 40 minutes away. Looks like my month of R&R is over.

Why Macs are cool -- reason # 303631

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Netflix Freak. Manage your Netflix queue (and more) without having to deal with their cruddy site (talk about a bad redesign!).

Dunno where it got those ratings, though. I haven't seen any of those movies yet!

Crunch (times four)

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In the span of about 1/4 mile, I almost ran over four squirrels -- one after the other. The last one was a close call -- I swerved to avoid him. I'm not going to wreck my car to save a squirrel... but I'll do what I can... they're kind of cute.

This can't be good

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Today I did a dry run of my 2003 taxes, and the news isn't good. I underpaid considerably, and they're going to get me for this. When I did my quarterly taxes this year, I really had no idea that I'd make so much compared to last year. I may have to flee to some tropical, non-extradition country. Then again, they'd just send me to one of those white collar prisons, right?

(Let's see how long it takes for an Office Space reference)

Update: Looks like I'll avoid the underpayment penalty. Phew!

And since I'm complaining

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Why is it that when you call a company (e.g. a bank) and punch identifying information into the phone, they ask you for the same info later when you speak with a human?

Oh boy...

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Here's one offer that probably won't be paid out. Kind of like those annoying "we'll beat any price, or your mattress is free" commercials that I hear on the radio (have they ever given out a free mattress? bet not).

Blinded

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Now that I'm living out in the sticks, I find myself spending a lot of time on 2-lane country roads. And on those roads, people use their hi-beams at night. Now, being the courteous person that I am, I always turn mine off when there's a car approaching, or in front of me. Unfortunately, I noticed that many other cars don't do the same in return. I often find myself face-to-face with an approaching car with their brights on. I've tried flashing my lights, but that doesn't accomplish anything. My worst encounters are with the large SUVs, which already are blinding (due to their height). Is it that people don't know what they're doing, or do they just not care?

Uh oh

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Those whose paths are not the same do not consult one another.

Old El Paso

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Something happened to the original entry... click the link to see the pictures.

Yosemite pictures posted

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Today my dad and I took a day-trip to Yosemite. It was all snow, all the time. But it was beautiful and EMPTY! We had the place to ourselves.

Highlight of the trip: Getting up close and personal to a coyote. Like 3 feet away. He walked right past us. I was more afraid of him than he was of me.

Lowlight #1 of the trip: Carrying my heavy metal tripod and the Olympus E-1 (with battery grip) around all day. I'm going to be sore tomorrow!

Lowlight #2: Our car got stuck in an ice filled hole in a parking lot. Took 4 people and a sweatshirt to get us out of it.

Here are my favorite pictures from the trip.

Favorite games of 2003

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As you may know, I play my fair share of video games (what else are you going to do out here, watch the corn grow?). Here are some of my favorites from last year:

Shenmue II: It technically came out in 2002, but I didn't play it until last summer. Basically more Shenmue (see below for more about that), just longer and a little less tedious. Instead of driving forklifts to kill time, you carry piles of books and work at a stand ("would you like to try a game of lucky hit?"). The last 2 hours before the end of the game is quite dull too.

Ratchet and Clank: Going Commando: This is one of best platform games I've ever played. Everything about it is awesome. Okay, a few more save points would be nice.

Viewtiful Joe: This side-scroller is a step back in time to the good old days. It's not easy, though, and the cheap "let's fight the bosses again" part near the end put this one back on the shelf.

The Legend of Zelda: The Windwaker: This one also had the "boss replay" at the end and had some tedious parts too. But overall, great gameplay, amazing graphics -- just fun to play.

Call of Duty: Awesome first person shooter set in WWII. Probably the most immersive game I've played. It's pretty easy though, and short too.

DDRMax2: The only non-sport exercise that I enjoy. Burn calories while listening to some really bad music. I don't know how some of those people get record contracts.

Most overrated game: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Apparently I'm the only one who was disappointed with this snoozefest. I just never got into it.

Best game of 2004 so far: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. A great update of a classic. Much easier than the original.

I must be missing something

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Tonight I saw a commercial for this:

I don't know much about the Atkins diet, but I do know that you need to watch your carbs. What I don't understand is how eating this 1000 calorie, 62 gram of fat monstrosity is good for you in the long term. Cutting carbs may help you lose weight, but what about all that fat and cholesterol you're eating? I have a feeling that Atkins dieters will drop dead of a heart attack one day -- but at least they'll be thin.

Nowhere to eat

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One of the more frustrating things about living way out here is that there's nowhere to get food (aside from the usual fast food places). Sometimes I want to take out something a little higher quality than Taco Bell (don't get me wrong, I like that too).

Recently, three chains opened up just down the road in Antioch. Mimi's Cafe, Chilis, and Panda Express. I haven't been to the first two yet, but being a lover of Chinese food, Panda Express was much needed. It's not remotely authentic, but it's edible.

Anyhow, the point of all this is that these places are mobbed. Mimi's and Chilis always have a wait, and the two times I've been to Panda Express, the line is 15-20 people deep. Today, it took 20 minutes to get to the front of the line at 6:30pm. What does this tell me? There's nowhere to eat around here!

Too real

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Recently I busted out the classic Sega game Shenmue from my archives. It's not very old, maybe from the year 2000. For the most part, it's an amazing game.

The big thing about Shenmue is the "FREE" system, which provides a real "world" in which the game progresses. You have full access to the city, and you can go anywhere. There are residents in the city who have jobs, talk to people, ride their bikes, etc. They go about their business while you go about yours. You can interact with all of them, but often the conversations are pretty useless. Time passes a little faster in the game, thankfully: 1 of minute of normal time is equal to about 15 minutes of game time.

So what's the problem with this?

- It can be just as dull as real life. For example, my character finished his day at work, so I had to walk him away from the docks, where he then had to wait for the bus. After a bus ride (which you don't have to sit through), I then walked him all the way home, passing the shops, parks, and apartments of the of Yokosuka, Japan. Finally we get home. I must enter the gate, walk across the yard, into the house, and into my room where I can finally go to sleep.

- This is the first game I've played that actually involves "busy work". The main character actually gets a job, which you have to do every day for at least a week. I didn't get weekends of holidays off, either! After walking and bussing to work (see above), I then spend about 8 hours of game time moving crates between warehouses, with occasional breaks to fight thugs. All this just to advance the plot.

Don't get me wrong, I still love this game. But I think it's a little too realistic for most people. I should add that the first time I played it, I was bored to tears, and I shelved it for a year. And that was before I had to drive the forklift!

Macworld: Day 2

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... was not nearly as exciting as day 1. I had one meeting where I saw cameras that were much less exciting than those I saw the day before. Then it was lunch with another former coworker at a good Thai place. Then I hung out at the Canvas Cafe for a few hours with my Powerbook. It was Mac heaven there... the Macs outnumbered the PCs -- a rare event. I was in good company.

After the long ride home I got to load up the trash and recycling cans and wheel them into the street. Ahh, the exciting suburban life.

Macworld: Day 1 report

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I awoke at the crack of dawn this morning (well, by my standards) and headed out toward the BART station. Even at 6:45am, traffic on highway 4 is awful.

Got to the BART station, went to buy my ticket. Great, the credit card link is down. I hear a train arriving, so I just take my old ticket (with like $2 on it) and bolted for the train.

I get off in SF and head toward the Add Fare machine. It wants $4, using only ones or fives. I have a $10 and a $20. So I have to start asking for change -- which luckily I got quickly.

Jumping ahead a bit: I get my press pass and meet up with some folks from Macworld. I also got to meet the legendary Adam Engst, who runs the TidBits newsletter. He's plugged many of my sites over the years.

Anyhow, the keynote was pretty good, though I had better seats last year. The iPod mini was overpriced, but Garage Band was cool. I want a rack of Xserves -- or maybe a few boxes with blinky lights instead. I don't know anything about John Mayer (who was an integral part of the keynote), but the guy sure is talented.

After that, I had lunch with my old work cohort Dan, and had two of my meetings (#3 is tomorrow).

I'm a jaded guy when it comes to cameras, but I saw 2 or 3 of them today that made my jaw drop. If I were camera shopping, I'd wait until mid-February before making any decisions. It's going to be a very good year.

To finish off the day, I met my friend Andre, who is my contact at PriceGrabber. Then it was time for the long ride home!

Read on for some of the lousy pictures that I took at the keynote...

Macworld is this week

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Tomorrow and Wednesday I'll be back in the city for Macworld Expo. I've been going each year for as long as I can remember... back to the days when my dad and I used to go (late 80s?).

This year I'm hoping to see Steve Jobs' keynote again. Last year I was in the 3rd row! Thank you, press pass.

My other mission is to meet with the big three camera makers. I'll be getting a firsthand look at all their new cameras for 2004. Under NDA, of course.

Yeah, like THAT ever happens

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I was watching WarGames on TV and thought it was funny that the computer geek with underwear all over his bedroom has the cutest girl in class interested in him. Surrrrre. (Though Matthew Broderick is better looking than the stereotypical teenage geek.)

Groan

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Nothing like sitting down to write a review, only to find out that you haven't taken the night test shot for that camera. That means I have to load up the car and head to the usual spot tonight... 90 minutes of driving (roundtrip) for a handful of photos. What I don't do for my readers!

Update: As I stood at Treasure Island composing my pictures, I realized that I had indeed taken them with the camera in question. The thing is, I don't know what happened to those pictures. So I took them again.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from January 2004 listed from newest to oldest.

December 2003 is the previous archive.

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